One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side of the lake.’ So they put out, and while they were sailing he fell asleep. A gale swept down on the lake, and the boat was filling with water, and they were in danger. They went to him and woke him up, shouting, ‘Master, Master, we are perishing!’ And he woke up and rebuked the wind and the raging waves; they ceased, and there was a calm. He said to them, ‘Where is your faith?’ They were afraid and amazed, and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that he commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him?’
Just the handful of experiences in my life of being on a boat, have taught me to have a healthy respect for the sea! A walk along the rough Cornish coast or watching tsunami racing in-land on the news, will likely have the same effect on any of us.
For the Jewish audience, familiar with the imagery of the chaotic waters of creation and the violent Red Sea – Luke’s unsettling storm on the Galilee would have induced the same fear and dread.
For me, the real question is not ‘did Jesus still a storm?’, but whether the God who delivers people from forces beyond their control still acts to deliver those who call out in desperation today.
We humans really do like to be in control – or at least to feel that we are. That said, I suspect there is a nagging realisation deep within us that a great deal is out of our direct control; things that really scare us and that cause us to shout out ‘Master, master we are perishing!’: climate change, global injustice and poverty, division within communities – whatever it may be.
This then, is a story about faith and trust, and following the way of him who stills the storms. And as we know well, ‘following’ is not a passive activity.
If I ask of God, ‘do you still act to deliver those who call out in desperation today?’, I can be sure that the question is returned to me, as God’s answer.
Great God, above chaotic waters beyond our control, we turn to you this new day crying out for all who perish; tossed about in life’s boat. Empower us we pray, to trust you more and in that strengthened faith, to both rest in you and to follow your way. Amen
The Rev’d Martin Knight is Minister of St Paul’s URC, South Croydon